Vocalo Storytellers

Vocalo Storytellers receive training from #teamvocalo to share stories about things they care about.

Workshops are funded in part by the McCormick Foundation, the Boeing Foundation and the Field Foundation.
Vocalo Storytellers
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Local producer and graduate of Vocalo’s Storytelling Workshops Alex Rojas shares the story of Joel Maisonet who decided to get back to pursuing his dreams after a 10 year ‘life’ gap.

VSW graduate Alex Rojas continues to collect and produce stories about Chicago.

Justyna Bicz

  • Why did you become a Vocalo Storyteller?

To meet others interested in telling stories and community radio, and to learn to produce stories that sound both personal and professional.

  • Your piece in 20 seconds:

Su Casa is a home for Latino families in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. Those living there include recent immigrants struggling with poverty and homelessness as well as longtime Chicago residents escaping domestic abuse. I visit the house and witness the community they’ve formed. 

  • Why did you tell this story?

I am interested in how the places we live define the communities we identify with and join. Su Casa allows residents to stay upwards of a year, but nevertheless is a place of transience. When I visited, I was fascinated by how the house was clearly marked by its past inhabitants, and wondered how their histories intertwined with today’s residents.

  • How are you a better storyteller and producer?

One take-away is to be open about the story and allow it to change as you research and collect tape. Also, I learned how different a script that sounds good on the radio is from one that works on paper.

 

Blas Diaz

  • Why did you become a Vocalo Storyteller?

For my sister. She’s the one who brought the workshop to my attention and without her supporting me I wouldn’t have had the courage to apply. I didn’t think I would get in, but I did, and so I wanted to make my family and those who care about me proud. I was interested in becoming a vocalo storyteller because I grew up listening to WBEZ and shows like This American Life as a kid on the way to school, and I’d always been fascinated with the stories I’d heard. I believe that everybody has a story to tell, and I want to find the people least able to tell their story and share it.

  • Your piece in 20 seconds:

My piece is on mental health. It is the story of a single woman, my aunt, as she suffered with bipolar disorder and how it affected the people in her life. It deals with the topic of suicide, and what it is like to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder later in life.

  • Why did you tell this story?

With this story I hoped to reduce the stigma that mental health disorders have and that seeking help can have. I want people to know that they are not alone in their struggles with mental illness and to hear firsthand from somebody who went through a lot that it is possible to get help and to get better.

  • How are you a better storyteller and producer?

The Vocalo workshop taught me how to use my voice to better get my point across over radio. It taught me how to use the editing software that is necessary to tell a compelling story. Luis and Ayana, as well as Maria and the many special guests we had throughout the workshop helped me to realize the potential of the power that some of us have to listen, and what that power can do if honed and harnessed.

Hana Worku

  • Why did you become a Vocalo Storyteller?

I wanted to use storytelling share perspectives on current political debates that aren’t always heard.  I also wanted to challenge myself to finish a creative project from start to finish— something that I don’t always make “time” for in my 9-5 job.  Finally, I wanted to try and show the audience that  a single story can have conflicting and contradictory storytellers.  Often times, a situation is much more complex than it seems from the outside. 

  • Your piece in 20 seconds:

Does it matter that we are being watched? This story explores youth, social media, and government surveillance.  It focuses on young people’s opinions of online privacy. The story also discusses NSA domestic surveillance and why it may be significant to young people of color. 

  • Why did you tell this story?

As I show in the story, I think there is an unfortunate dynamic in the public debate around mass surveillance and online privacy where the people who are most “tech-saavy” - young people- are not included in policy discussions.  I wanted to flip that and start my story by consulting the expertise of youth.  I also told this story because I felt this issue of NSA domestic surveillance impacts my life greatly.   This story was a chance to explore further. 

  • How are you better storyteller and producer?

I learned to be willing and open to make edits— throwing out bad ideas in favor of improving the overall story.  It felt cathartic to be able to cut out what wasn’t working and go with the strongest sounds and voices.  I also am a better producer now because I know how to collect good audio and how edit in music and narration.  I had never done this type of digital storytelling before.  

LaToya Cross

  • Why did you become a Vocalo Storyteller?

Radio is a space and medium I have wanted to explore and use as a platform to elevate as a writer and journalist. The power of voice and sound bring forth such an amazing dynamic to the art of storytelling. There is an authenticity, where everyday voices and their life experiences are explored and heard, that threads the stories you hear on public radio and I wanted to create that. Vocalo offered the perfect opportunity to learn and produce a body of work that is by you and for the people.

  • Your piece in 20 seconds:

Karoshi, a Japanese term meaning death due to overwork, raises the conversation about overworking to get ahead and various viewpoints of success. It offers insight as to why we feel the need to constantly work and the challenges faced when it comes to balance.

  • Why did you tell this story?

Society is fixated on the idea of  “the grind” and sleep is classified as a slacker trait. The reality is sleep is an essential part of life that affects our health and ability to function and “grind” effectively. When I heard the stories of young workers dying due to stress and overworking, my initial reaction was shock and anger. I wanted to address perceptions of success and why it has become the quantity of time one puts in as oppose to the quality of the product that gains applause. Also, I wanted to discuss the challenges of balance in this 24-seven work cycle we live in.

I believe that if my generation or anyone battling with balance and work life – myself definitely included –learned to work smarter, we would be able to achieve success and happiness without burning ourselves out. 

  • How are you better storyteller and producer?

Radio is impactful and layered. It travels with a person, so that challenge of not wanting them to turn you off or down, pushes you to create stories that sound good, are relatable, engaging and informative. For me, this workshop increased my confidence in pitching ideas that matter but aren’t often discussed. I also gained confidence in production and seeing an idea progress from inception to fruition.  I loved that we learned specific techniques to curate a thought-provoking and powerful body of work and became producers in the process. Real life makes great radio.

I hope to continue work in radio production and storytelling! 

Ericka McCarthy

  • Why did you become a Vocalo Storyteller?

I love the idea of being able to tell and share a great story with others, who might not be exposed to the interesting and diverse stories that Vocalo is known for. Becoming a Storyteller was a way to integrate music and stories that are ignored or buried in small blurbs in mainstream media; Vocalo is the medium that allows for presentation of great content that engages its listeners.

  • Your piece in 20 seconds:

Social media and its various platforms show that although it has great uses and opportunities to connect, it can also hinder us regardless of age, from interacting and getting to really know each other.

  • Why did you tell this story?

I felt a first-hand account from people who use social media would be the best storytellers. The honesty of the youth and adults and their thoughts about social media opened my eyes as a listener to different points of view. My hope is that it will do the same for those who listen to it as well. In telling this story, I learned that it takes a lot for people to be vulnerable and open when sharing their opinions and thoughts on something so public, especially when hiding behind a screen.

  • How are you better storyteller and producer?

I’m a better Storyteller because I was able to share my passion with others who also want to tell great stories. The positive energy and enthusiasm shared was a great breeding ground for ideas and feedback to make the stories more cohesive and interesting. The knowledge from Vocalo’s producers and Maria Hinojosa, was very informative and straightforward when it came to narrowing down the focus of the stories for radio. The hands-on production experience was a great way to dive into taking apart and putting together the story until it was a piece I felt confident in sharing. I’m a better Storyteller and producer because there’s a link to a group of Storytellers who share a passion for giving a voice to stories that are in and beyond our communities, but are overlooked in mainstream media. 

Stephanie Shacter

  • Why did you become a Vocalo Storyteller?

I’ve always loved all forms of storytelling, especially the simple form of radio. I knew that the Vocalo editors would help me improve my storytelling ability while also giving my stories exposure.

  • Your piece in 20 seconds:

I’ve had a stutter for sixteen years. In those sixteen years, I never identified with my stutter. It was a source of shame and embarrassment. Turns out, those emotions were a result of my miseducation. In this story, I educate myself on the scientific facts of stuttering while examining my own emotional struggles with the speech disorder.

  • Why did you tell this story?

Stuttering is an uncommon speech disorder that is widely misunderstood. I told my personal story to educate the public about the facts and give a glimpse into the emotional toll attached to the disorder.

  • How are you better storyteller and producer?

Writing and speaking for radio were two things I felt uncomfortable with at the start of the workshop. I had no intention of using my voice and words in this piece. With the help of experts and encouragement from Vocalo editors, I became comfortable. I’ll definitely continue to include my voice in radio pieces.

Victoria Gaspar

  • Why did you become a Vocalo Storyteller?

I became a Vocalo Storyteller because of what a wonderful opportunity it was. 

  • Your piece in 20 seconds: 

My piece was inspired by the book Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In.” This book inspired me on what I have been going through as a woman. This book helped me to acknowledge my passion within my career and my purpose in life. I read this book at a perfect time in my life and I wanted to see if other women had similar experiences of “leaning in” and discovering passion within their career. I focused on Hispanic women because of the statistic mentioned within my piece. Therefore, I wanted to emphasize the “Lean in” experiences of Hispanic women.  

  • Why did you tell this story? 

I told this story because I think it’s extremely important for women to be passionate about their careers and acknowledge this, to inspire other women in this transitional period. 

  • How are you better storyteller and producer?

This workshop taught me to enhance my listening skills, and most importantly to ask questions. This workshop allowed me to practice these skills and focus on the stories of others. I’ve always appreciated people’s stories, but this workshop pushed me to dig deeper into these stories and reflect on mine as well. I was also taught how to use many tools like the Reaper software and a recorder; instruments that I have never used before. 

Maria Hinojosa came by the workshop to share words of wisdom and encouragement as the storytellers enter the final weeks of production.

This might end up being the ‘hook’ for my segment on youth and digital privacy issues and government surveillance.